With UN climate guru Rajendra Pachauri under fire for alleged conflicts of interest and the purveying of flawed “science,” another United Nations eco-official is stepping forward to defend UN climate findings.
His name is Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, or UNEP, based in Nairobi. If you are curious about potential conflicts of interest among the UN climate crowd, Steiner, along with Pachauri, is someone to watch.
Like Pachauri, Steiner is still talking about “overwhelming evidence” supporting the findings of Al Gore’s co-Nobelist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — despite the growing body of evidence that the IPCC’s findings were more a product of UN politics than of science. In recent remarks featured as a top item on the UN’s official news site, Steiner has just praised the IPCC and re-issued the UN’s usual apocalyptic warnings: “Any delay… risks of a magnitude…urgent international response” — etc.
Who is Achim Steiner? A German, born in Brazil, he is a longtime environmentalist, former head from 2001-2006 of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. (Sample of UN climate networking — take a deep breath, don’t even try to follow this, just roll with it: The IUCN has been phenomenally intertwined over the years with the UN cast of climate characters. When Steiner left the IUCN in 2006, he was succeeded there by a sister-in-law of a former U.S. ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke. This Holbrooke in-law, Julia Marton-Lefevre , in turn, had just finished serving as rector of the UN University for Peace, in Costa Rica, which had been greatly beefed up in the years prior to her arrival by the so-called godfather of the Kyoto Treaty, Maurice Strong — first head of the same UNEP that Achim Steiner now runs).
Anyway, in December, 2005, Achim Steiner served as a judge on a panel in Dubai that awarded a $500,000 environmental prize to then-Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan. With a big smile, at a banquet in Dubai, Annan — then the UN’s top official — accepted this six-figure purse for his personal use. About three months later, Annan named Steiner, one of the judges who picked Annan for the prize, to head UNEP.
The press raised questions about whether this was a potential conflict of interest. Annan, months after accepting the $500,000 prize, and weeks after the flap over his appointment of Steiner to UNEP, finally said he would turn over his fat cash prize to UN relief efforts. But Achim Steiner did not give up his UNEP job. The UN claimed there was no conflict of interest. Steiner has since been running UNEP, which fields a $225 million annual budget. Based in Nairobi, UNEP is way off the radar of most media scrutiny, and under Steiner’s management it is evidently on board with the agenda to shove the Pachauri-IPCC agenda down your throat, however questionable the “science.”
This tale of Kofi’s cash prize does not figure in Steiner’s official UN biography. But something that does, if you scroll down to the end, is Steiner’s position on the advisory board of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, or CCICED, which describes itself on its web site as “a high level non-governmental advisory body” set up in 1992 by the Chinese government.
Perhaps by the UN’s flabby standards this does not count as a conflict of interest. But the UN, last I checked, is a public institution, bankrolled in substantial part by U.S. tax dollars, and set up to serve its member states. Is it appropriate that Achim Steiner, while serving as senior public servant, head of a major UN agency, UNEP, should also be on the advisory board of a Chinese NGO set up the Chinese government?
Some of the other folks connected with this same CCICED have names you might also start to recognize. A 2002 meeting of this body was keynoted by Maurice Strong ,a former UN senior official now living in China. And among the 23 “International Members” currently listed on the CCICED’s web site are not only Achim Steiner, head of UNEP, but also the IPCC’s Rajendra Pachauri. (And, in case you are interested in the trajectory of former UN officials and affiliates, two of the other members are former UNEP director Klaus Toepfer, who preceded Steiner at the UN agency; and former rector of the UN University for Peace, who succeed Steiner at the IUCN, Julia Marton-Lefevre — see italics above).
Bottom line: Does anyone trying to follow this spaghetti start to wonder if the UN should have a much clearer policy to prohibit and penalize conflicts of interest? Especially among high-ranking officials prone to issuing apocalyptic calls to re-engineer the economy of the planet — under their direction, and at vast cost to the rest of us?